Rural Skills at Leckmelm and Ullapool High

25th August 2017

We were invited to Moy Game Fair this year with Alasdair MacDonald the Keeper at Dundonnell Estate to receive an award for Ullapool High School. This was presented by Fergus Ewing MSP Minister of Agriculture and supported by Scottish Land and Estates.

We have been working with Ullapool High School since 2007 to deliver Rural Skills training to pupils ranging from lIme mortaring to lambing there have been over 100 pupils who have come to the farm on a weekly basis. It's been great to see their progress some of whom have gone on to shepherding New Zealand, working for the forestry commission and deer stalking to name but a few of the career paths that young people have taken.

This year we pleased to receive not only this award for the school but also to attend with the school to win the Lantra Rural Skills School of the year award.

Getting Ready for Lambing Again

8th February 2017

On the 1st of November each year, without fail we put the tups out to the ewes for mating.  At this time we split the flock into three distinct groups:

Bluefaced Leicester with Scottish Blackface Ewes to breed what are known as "Highland Mules" Nothing to do with a donkey - its a recognised sheep crossbreed.

 My son Duncan with a mule pet lamb

North Country cheviots.  These are the backbone of store sheep here at Leckmelm and they are reknowned for their hardiness, good mothering ability and excellent quality wool which attracts a slightly higher price than the wool of the Scottish Blackfaced sheep.

 Cheviot lamb

The third and final group are the mules who we mate with a Suffolk Tup.  Now the suffolk tup is not native to our area and can be soft.  Once he has done his business he has to be in the shed all winter out of the cold and fed the best of sileage and hard feed.  We breed this particular crossbreed to rear a meat lamb.  The suffolk is an old breed, the muscle and fat conformation when crossed with the slow growing quality of the mule ewe makes for a very tasty lamb and we sell this meat at the farm and make a lot of lamb roasts and curries at home too.  These lambs are the cutest in my opinion thier floppy ears and sweet nature pulls my heart strings so I try not to get too attached to those that are destined for the freezer!

 Our pet suffolk cross lamb

A lot of folks may wonder how you can cope with giving love and care to an animal and then eating it?  This is something I try to reconcile in my head and I do confess there was even a time in my life when I was a veggie.  There are so many factory farms globally I think if you choose to eat meat then it is better to know where it comes from and to see the land and people who have raised it.  As a species we gave up hunter/gatherer status in the Neolithic era and took up husbandry of animals.  I aim to farm as ethically as I can using local suppliers, minimal inputs, grass feed, home produced feed and antibiotics if only absolutely necessary for animal welfare.

So, getting back to my starting point we are now over half way to lambing which starts on 26th March and will go on for 5 weeks.  The scanner man Dan the Scan who travels all the way from New Zealand to Scotland has scanned the flock and we are expecting 67 sets of twins, 1 set of triplets and 108 singles.  Each day we are now feeding them according to how many lambs they are carrying and hoping for good weather and a good lambing season ahead of us.

Me feeding the ewes in the three acre field at Leckmelm

 

A Story of Gralloch and Where Eagles Dare....

26th January 2016

At this time of year at Leckmelm we are involved with the hind cull.  This aspect of deer management requires a hardiness to cold temperatures, a willingness to climb and crawl over rough terrain usually at 500 feet or above and the ability to know the natural history of a particular deer herd and determine which animals within a group need to be culled for welfare purposes.  

When a deer is culled on the hill the deer stalker will gralloch the deer on site. Essentially disembowelling the deer to prevent the meat spoiling and to check signs of health such as lymph nodes and so on.  Gralloch is gaelic for intestines, another example of how gaelic words are still used day to day in the Highlands even by people like me who are not native gaelic speakers.  Gralloching also makes the deer considerably lighter to take back to the larder and the entrails provide a rich picking for birds of prey and other species that feed on carrion.

Last week Scott had culled a yeld hind and left the gralloch in the snow on the hill.  The next day, when he returned to the place where he had left the gralloch he noted some very large footprints in the snow which led to some speculation as to where they had come from.  NB Scott's feet are size 10 in this picture........

Our suspicion was that a Golden Eagle had visited the gralloch and our neighbour Noel Hawkins who works for the Scottish Wildlife Trust sent us a picture of an eagle's foot which gave us some idea of their size.....

(Photo courtesy of Noel Hawkins. Copyright MacRae Media)

So the trail cam was deployed.  Scott went up just before dusk and set up the cam near to the gralloch, during the next 24 hours we were hoping that a visiting animal may get caught on film.  After a long, snowy hike back down that evening we were not suprised to see that a buzzard had activated the camera.  

Feeding over the space of a couple of hours the buzzard had landed early in the morning and kept coming back for more.  Suddenly, we noted the Buzzard's body language changed on the film.  The buzzard drew it's wings up over the gralloch in a protective way as if trying to sheild the view of it's prey from another creature. Then, like a flash, the buzzard was away.

The next still photo captured blew us away.

The eagle had landed.  A stream of photos from the trail cam followed with the eagle carefully picking at it's feast, spending almost 4 hours at the gralloch and enjoying every beak full.  I have only ever seen eagles from a distance, either in flight with their six foot span like a speck in the distance or else far away in a rocky crag with young.  What an incredible experience and how lucky we are to be able to share these pictures. 

(All eagle pics courtesy of Scott Fraser, deer group by Annabel Yates)

Christmas Eve Offer

24th December 2015

Any booking on line or via telephone on Christmas Eve is entitled to a 10% discount.  This discount is being offered concurrently with the launch of our new website.

 

It's Turkey Time Again

18th December 2015

For the last ten years I have grown and reared free range turkeys at Leckmelm.  The turkeys are wee characters and will often be seen nosing about the farm by the Lochside Cottages or taking a stroll along the beach.

This year we've been plucking and prepping the birds in the larder at the farm.  I am a registered slaughterwoman and was trained by the humane slaughter association.  I hope to give the turkeys the best life they can have and ensure they are well looked after and cared for.  

There's a team of 6 who work at this time of year...."Team Turkey 2016" includes people from all walks of life: a shepherd, a crofter, a lifeguard, a school leaver, a painter and Danielle who not only sorts the Leckmelm Office she is also a Mum of two and has a croft of her own where she keeps pigs, ducks and sheep with her husband.  Team turkey is a multi-talented bunch, but by 24th December we have sung along to far too many cheesy Christmas songs on the larder radio to mention....

 

Farm history a lost Industry

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Last month I was amazed to receive an email all the way from South Australia.  An engineering researcher, Gabriela Szondy, with a self confessed interest in corrugated iron had sent me a jou...
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